Dec. 19, 2012
| Kizer to Elward
In July of 1937, Noble Kizer, set to begin his eighth year as head coach while also serving as athletics director since 1933, was stricken with a kidney disorder. He was granted a leave of absence Aug. 28 and tabbed longtime assistant Mal Elward as interim coach.
Elward was regarded as a keen technician and credited with having a key role in the rise of Purdue football over the previous decade. He had head coaching experience - in high school, the armed services (he was a U.S. Navy pilot during World War I), and at Grinnell College and John Carroll University.
Elward played at Notre Dame. The native of New Brunswick, Canada, was an end from 1912 to 1915, backing up Knute Rockne for two years before becoming a starter his junior and senior seasons. Elward, who weighed 142 pounds as a player, is credited with devising the end shift that gave him a better shot at taking on the ever-growing tackles of postwar days. He was tough, albeit his size, disdaining the use of a head guard, knee pads or thigh pads, and even shedding his shoulder pads for the final two games of his career so as not to be slowed down by the extra weight.
The 1937 Boilermakers were plagued by turnovers, including 10 against Wisconsin on a rainy, snowy day in Madison on Nov. 13. They threw six interceptions and lost four fumbles, yet managed a 7-7 tie. The following week, Purdue defeated 20th-ranked Indiana 13-7 in snow-covered Bloomington to finish with a 4-3-1 record (2-2-1 Big Ten). Halfback Cecil Isbell threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to junior end Jim Zachary in the first quarter and rushed for a 10-yard score with less than two minutes to go in the game. The victory was inspired by a pregame long-distance phone call from Kizer to the team.
Nearly a year and a half after being granted his leave, Kizer resumed his duties as athletics director after staging a remarkable recovery. He did not coach again and ultimately succumbed to his illness June 13, 1940, at just 40 years of age.
Elward went on to coach the Boilermakers through the 1941 season with a 16-18-6 record.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Patrick Higgins is not the first coach in Purdue football history to take over during the course of a season.
In 1912, M.H. "Bill" Horr, in his third year, was dismissed for "improper conduct" after the Boilermakers won just one of their first three games. The Oct. 31 Purdue Exponent read, "While for some time there has been complaint from students and alumni that the players lack an understanding of the finer points of the game and that much good material was going to waste instead of to a conference championship, these complains have only served to bring the matter to the attention of the board and are not given as a reason for its action."
John "Keckie" Moll assumed control of the team, and the Boilermakers did not lose the rest of the season, winning three and tying one. Among their victories was a 91-0 demolition of Rose Poly on Nov. 17.
In that game, halfback Elmer Oliphant set school records with five touchdowns (in the first year they were worth the modern-day six points), 13 extra points and 43 total points. The touchdown mark has been tied twice - by Mike Northington in 1973 and Mike Alstott in 1993 - but the total points standard has stood. It was the Big Ten record, too, for more than 75 years before Howard Griffith of Illinois scored 48 points (on eight touchdowns) against Southern Illinois on Sept. 22, 1990. At the conclusion of the 1912 campaign, Oliphant was honored as the Boilermakers' first all-conference selection.
Moll, who was expected to have his contract renewed, had an offer to become head coach at Ohio State, as well. But he died on Christmas morning of 1912 after a short illness stemming from typhoid fever.
Almost a half century later, prior to Purdue's game at Michigan on Oct. 21, 1961, head coach Jack Mollenkopf was sidelined with an intestinal ailment that proved to be a benign growth in his lower abdomen. Offensive backfield coach Bob DeMoss assumed the role of acting head coach for two games, including a 9-0 victory over fifth-ranked Iowa at a muddy Ross-Ade Stadium on Oct. 28.
The Hawkeyes were held scoreless for the first time in 79 games, dating to 1952, and DeMoss was honored as Coach of the Week by United Press International. Junior center Don Paltani's first-quarter interception at the Iowa 37-yard line led to the only touchdown, a 1-yard sneak by sophomore quarterback Ron DiGravio.
Mollenkopf missed the final four games of the 1968 season with acute infectious hepatitis, a liver disease. DeMoss again assumed control of the team "in name only," and the Boilermakers, who began the year ranked No. 1 nationally for the only time in school history won three games to finish tied for third in the Big Ten at 5-2.
Higgins was named interim head coach of the Boilermakers on Nov. 25 and will coach the team in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Oklahoma State on New Year's Day.